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Different BPM Products: What difference does it make from a testing perspective?

This blog is the third in the 3-series blogs on validating BPM implementations. Here, we focus on the common products that are available in the market, their common use in enterprise implementations from a testing perspective.

 

According to a recent Forrester report on BPM, (The Forrester Wave: BPM Suites, Q1, 2013) in the year 2013, BPM suites are to take a center stage in Digital Disruption. The Disruptive forces of change include technical, business and regulatory changes.  It is a well-established fact that key to any change management or strategy implementation is to start small, think big and move fast! When it comes to the validation of BPM products, the story is not much different, except that we typically see testing organizations fail when it comes to scaling and moving fast. Business Process validation might be a success in silos or at an application/project level, however when it comes to Enterprise processes or integration involving several systems, across LOBs, we just cannot move at the same pace. One key reason is the lack of understanding of the overall BPM picture at hand.

 

Organizations embark upon automating process workflows (BPM) for many reasons. It could be aimed at streamlining some of the major workflows, to increase predictability in the workflow or it could be to reduce costs, manpower reduction, improve process efficiency etc.  BPM thus helps bridge the gap between Business and IT. To an extent, it equips the business team with the knowledge of IT implementations and helps act accordingly.

From testing perspective, an understanding of the different Business Process Management products will help us test applications/projects correctly. In other words, you understand what you are testing!  It will also help senior management to gain a seat at the table with the business leadership, as it equips them with the vocabulary of business and outcomes. Some of the major product vendors in the BPM space are:  IBM, Oracle, PegaSystems, TIBCO, SoftwareAG, Cordys and Appian.

Forrester (The Forrester Wave: BPM Suites, Q1, 2013) classifies the BPM products as belonging to 3 market segments:

a)     Human centric workflow

b)    Document centric workflow

c)     Integration centric workflow

 

a)    Human Centric work flows are those that require manual attention. Most of the back office processing, work flow items requiring several approvals, manual intervention etc. fall under this category. Replacing human actors in an entire work flow might seem a herculean task, but it is not impossible. It improves the process predictability. Workflow progress is not hidden at the desk of corporate staff, but it is traced in the systems, visible to the management. These processes are not generally voluminous in data terms, but they might involve several 'stages' in their lifecycle.

 

b)    Document Centric workflows are those that involve heavy paper work / documentation. This is common in the FSI segment. Banks and Insurance houses have several correspondences / letters that have to be generated, sent to customers, to other banks / organizations etc. Examples include monthly statements, address change notifications, loan approvals, claim processing details, premium renewals etc.  Products such as Thunderhead, HP Extreme are good examples but they focus only on Document Generation and not the entire workflow. IBM Business Process Manager is another good example.

 

c)    Integration Centric workflows are those that are at a still smaller granularity. This involves great amount of decision making, based on events and up/down stream system extracts / directives. Examples include workflows in Telecom, Banking and Insurance domains. Integration between legacy back-end systems and SOA are very common in the FSI space. Products like TIBCO Active Matrix focus more on this segment.  TIBCO provides this as an extension of its SOA suite of products.

Over a period, there has been a significant change in the way a workflow is implemented. End users want to do most of their banking via smartphones / tablets. They have become demanding and mercilessly switch business providers in search of more value and better servicing. In an attempt to answer this, businesses embark upon workflow integration and automation making BPM Product vendors sell their products in this space. As testers, we validate it!

You can access the other blogs in this series at:

Business Process Management (BPM) Implementation - An Introduction

Testing of Business Process Implementations

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